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Chester: The Heart Worm Saga

Before we get into this story, I’ve learned that some people are unaware of what heartworms are, how they’re transmitted and the danger they pose to our puppies.  Mosquitoes are the carriers.  They bite the dog, transferring the larvae to the dog where it grows into a mature worm.

Here’s a quote from the American Heartworm Association that sums it up succinctly:  “It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and associated blood vessels of affected pets, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body.”

Heartworms are a bad thing and any responsible pet owner should do their part to help prevent their dog from becoming infected.

Heartworm prevention isn’t a difficult thing.  It’s a simple chewable (tasty to the dog) pill given once a month.  The chewable kills off the baby heartworm to keep the dog healthy and prevent the babies from growing into mature, foot-long worms.

Chester picked me as his “person” a year ago.  I had gone to the animal rescue to look at some dogs I had seen online. The first few dogs I had met….it just didn’t “click.” Then, Chester came out.

I was sitting on the floor in the middle of the room with a few toys and treats.  He saw me and ran up to me saying, You’re my person and I’m your dog!  Who was I to argue with all that polka-dotted cuteness!?!

The animal rescue told me he had tested heartworm negative, that he was up to date on all his immunizations and was good to go, so go we did!  He was super enthusiastic about coming to our house and I was thrilled to have a dog in the house again!

When he first got here, he was severely underweight.  You could count his ribs….way too skinny for such a great puppy!  We went to work putting  few healthy pounds on his frame.

He settled into life at our house well.  We learned he loved to run!  That, of course, was a huge win!!!  He’d rip of easy 9:30 splits on a 5k like it was easy peasy!  He even ran a slower 10k with MFH (My Favorite Husband) and myself.  That was a fun day!

He was a very happy puppy!!!

Things started to change round autumn. He was getting winded easily.  A mile walk was about all he could do.  It’s kind of strange that I didn’t pick up on this right away?  I mean, he’d packed on about 10 pounds and was looking about how he should.  I’d just associated that to the weight he’d gained.  #MyBad

It was late December/early January and he was due for updates on his shots and a refill on his heartworm preventative.  I’d taken him to the vet that first week he’d moved to our house to have him checked out AND to put him on heartworm preventative.  He hadn’t missed a dose and had it the same day each month.  I’m kind of fussy about heartworm stuff.

Now, the vet we’d been using?  They had a sign where you paid your bill stating that once you’d paid and left the building, NOTHING could be returned.  The sign had always rubbed me a little wrong and I was soon to learn the reason why that sign was there.

Backtrack just a little bit?

Our vet in Mississippi was amazing!!!  We seriously loved him and so did our animals. One thing I’d learned from him was the heartworm test took about 3 minutes to do.  When we’d go in for our appointments and it was heartworm retest time, he’d draw the blood first, start the test and while the test was running, do the rest of the appointment! Efficient AND we had immediate test results.

The place here, we soon discovered, sent the blood out to a lab (I still think this is bogus) and you couldn’t get your results for about 3 days.  They tried to tell me that was how long it took to run the test.  That was a big fat lie and I knew it!

When I took Chester in for his test last December/January, I purchased another 6 months of heartworm preventative.  I had no idea they hadn’t run the test.  I didn’t know they didn’t have the results!  Still, they sold me another 6 months of preventative (pricey stuff!) that once I had paid I was stuck with it.

That evening (funny this was the only time we got the closest thing to immediate test results) I received an email telling me Chester was heartworm positive. They wanted $1200 for treatment!

I was, Wait, What!?!

Sooo, I got on Google and did a LOT of homework and learned a LOT of stuff about treatments AND learned that there’s no WAY it should cost $1200!!!

The next day, I finally got to talk to the vet and I was pretty steamed. Why did  my dog have heartworms when he’d been on preventative since the first week we’d had him? *I’ve since learned that this situation does happen so it’s not an unheard of thing.

WHY $1200!?!

She sent me an itemized list of what she intended to do.  This dog owner saw a whole lot of padding on that bill and was seriously grumpy!!!  There were tests, MRI’s, radiology fees…totally unnecessary items adding up to $800!

I confronted her about those padded items?  What were they for?  What purpose did they serve?  Were they completely necessary!?!  Well, no.  They were primarily to satisfy her curiosity as to how advanced Chester’s heartworm infection was. I asked her if the tests results would change the treatment at all?  She said, no.

When I told her I refused to pay $800 to satisfy her curiosity, things really started to go south.  #GoFigure

MFH and I chatted.  I was furious with this vet and felt she saw us as a cash cow and was doing/wanting to do completely unnecessary things in this treatment on Chester! After discussing it, we decided to stay with her for the treatment and once it was done, she was fired.

The month before the awful series of injections began, we had a month of antibiotics and steroids.  Chester did not tolerate them well.  He felt terrible and the steroids did what steroids do, he started to gain weight.  He was miserable!

Then the series of three rounds in injections started.  The injections are this stuff called, Immiticide®.  Basically it’s glorified Arsenic.  It’s not nice stuff.

They inject this  Immiticide® into the dogs “ONLY by deep intramuscular injection in the epaxial (lumbar) muscles in the third through fifth lumbar region.” They had to shave Chester’s rumpatootis for this procedure.  It is a very painful treatment and the vet flat out refused any pain management for Chester.  I was very angry about this!!!

Finally, after 4 months of more steroids mixed in with the nasty injections, Chester was all done with his heartworm treatment!  We were so happy for him!  He was happy, too!!!!  YAY, Chester!

Our instructions were to wait a month then come back for a heartworm retest…just to make sure the treatment had been successful?

We had started back to taking Chester on walks.  Short ones at first because he hadn’t been allowed to do anything during the treatment.  He was so happy to go for even the shortest walk!

He’s almost back to 2 miles on his walks and he’s dropping the weight he gained during treatment.  What a good boy!

We went back for the retest confident that all this was over.

We were wrong.  The vet informed us he still had lots of baby heartworms floating around in his blood.  She wanted him started on a topical heartworm treatment.

I was skeptical.  VERY skeptical.  I told MFH, I don’t trust her!  I think she’s taking us for a ride!

She told me I only needed to order one month of the topical?  I’d never heard of the stuff before and I thought this was very odd.  It was less expensive to order a package than just one month so I ordered the package.

After waiting another month, we were to go back in for another retest. This was just last week.  So we’re pretty current on where we’re at on this timeline.  Y’all still with me and I haven’t lost any of you?

Back we went last week for the rest test. Surprise, surprise!  We were told there were “hundreds” of those baby heartworms still in Chester’s blood!  She wanted me to put him on an entire month of antibiotics and order more of that topical stuff.  She must be getting kickbacks on that stuff or something (purely conjecture and just me being grumpy) because she was not a happy vet to learn I’d ordered the package instead of just one month.  I refused to fill the antibiotic.

I was like, Uh, huh.

MFH said, She’s trying to drag this out and just get a bunch of money out of us, isn’t she?

I got the green light to call the other vet I’d heard amazing things about! They got us in Saturday morning.

Wouldn’t you know he ran the heartworm test right in front of us?  Wouldn’t you know it takes 3-4 minutes tops to run the test!?!

Would you be surprised if I told you Chester’s test results were NEGATIVE!!!  Yay, Chester!!!

The other vet is a fraud.

I’ve been pretty upset with that vet for about 8 months.  See, I’ve had a dog since I was 4 years old.  I know dogs pretty well and I know vets AND I know when somebody’s taking me for a ride.  Nothing made me happier than firing her!!!

MFH called to get Chester and Castro’s vet records and had to jump through a few hoops to get even that!  Apparently you need permission from the vet before you can get records that are legally yours?  Who Knew!?!  We were able to get them in time for the appointment with the new vet….who Chester loved and I trust.

Soooo much drama!!!

I’m just thankful that Chester survived his mistreatment at the terrible vet office.  He’s such a good boy and most definitely didn’t deserve all that nonsense.

That’s most of the story.  I know so many of you were cheering for Chester and wanting us to dump the vet and there were reasons we stayed where we were but we’re out of that vet practice now.  YAY, right!?!

Who’s a good boy?

And through all this drama…

#IRun4Aiden